A senior Palestinian official at the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza accused Israel of adopting a policy that 'systematically kills' Palestinian patients from the besieged coastal enclave by obstructing the entry of diagnostic medical devices to local hospitals.
"For more than 18 months, the Israeli occupation has been obstructing the entry of dozens of different radiology devices, laboratory devices, surgical endoscopes, eye surgery microscopes, and cardiac catheters," Ibrahim Abbas, the director of the imaging unit in the health ministry, said to The New Arab.
He said that several medical devices are needed to accurately diagnose patients' cases by doctors and determine the type of medical intervention required, whether surgical or therapeutic.
Abbas further explained that some of the medical devices are also used in delicate surgeries, such as neurosurgery, stabilizing bone and spine fractures, as well as fixing stents in patients with heart and blood vessels, which alleviates the suffering of patients, especially with the wear and tear of old medical devices in the territory.
He stressed that the shortage and breakdown of these devices prevent patients from obtaining the necessary treatment, leading to several deaths.
In turn, dozens of thousands of patients will be forced to wait for a long time, sometimes exceeding 12 months, until they can undergo life-saving surgeries.
Usually, it is not easy for the health ministry in Gaza to purchase examination medical devices and is dependent on Arab and international donors to get them into the impoverished coastal enclave.
Based on a complicated process, the Hamas-run health ministry must prove to the donors that the medical devices will be used inside public hospitals and they are not under 'dual use' which will be definitely rejected by Israel.
"Sometimes, we had to spend long months waiting to receive final approval from the donors … Then they [donors] ordered the medical supply companies to provide the devices to us through the Israeli crossings," Abbas explained.
However, he said, Israel has denied allowing the devices into the coastal enclave even without any reason. "There are more than 12 medical diagnostic medical devices that are still being held either in medical warehouses in Israeli ports or in the warehouses of supplier companies in the West Bank," he added.
What makes matters worse, according to Abbas, is that the occupation also prevents the entry of several spare parts needed for the maintenance of medical devices.
"The patients in Gaza have been struggling to get their basic human rights, mainly receiving their medical treatment …. Unfortunately, thousands of patients have suffered from the deterioration of their health conditions due to the lack of a sufficient number of medical devices, and even the advanced devices have not yet arrived in the Strip," Abbas said.
According to Articles 55 and 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power has the obligation to ensure, if necessary, the provision of food and medical supplies to the inhabitants of occupied territories.
"But, what is happening is that the occupation abandons its responsibility and tightens the siege to further increase the suffering of patients," Abbas said, noting that Israel insists on implementing a 'health blockade' on the Gaza Strip.
Israel has imposed a tightened blockade on the coastal enclave in 2007, after Hamas, which won the legislative elections in 2006, controlled the territory following a brief battle with its rival Fatah.
Since then, Israel prevents the entry of all devices and tools that it claims have 'dual usage' in which Palestinian armed factions are able to use them to manufacture weapons and rockets.
Moreover, Israel launched four large-scale military wars against the Gazans, attacking hospitals and dozens of medical facilities, claiming that they were used by the Palestinian resistance to fire rockets at Israel's cities.
Due to these Israeli attacks, the health sector has considerably deteriorated as most of the health facilities are seriously damaged by Israel's blockade and wars, as well as due to the consequences of internal divisions between Hamas and Fatah.
For its part, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) warned of serious repercussions from the Israeli occupation's continued prevention of the supply of these important devices, which would preserve the lives of thousands of patients who need health services in government hospitals in the Gaza Strip.
In a press statement, the PCHR stresses that the primary responsibility for providing medical supplies to the population of the Gaza Strip lies with the Israeli occupation, according to Articles 55 and 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
PCHR also called on the international community and the World Health Organization (WHO) to put pressure on Israel to compel it to abide by its obligations and to allow the entry of all medical needs into the Gaza Strip, especially medical x-ray devices.